Posted by: talkjack | October 25, 2008

Fallout 3 DRM

Fallout 3 DRM – The conclusion

The online reaction s to Fallout 3’s DRM implementation (or imposition, if you prefer) have been a rollercoaster of emotion for many customers, haven’t they?

Having received my limited edition box set of Fallout 3, installed and played it, I can say without hesitation that Fallout 3 is a great game, and I do recommend that gamers get out there and buy a copy. Of course there is a bit of room for improvement with the game itself, but it is pretty good.

Fallout 3 was a hugely anticipated game, because the Fallout series won many long term fans years ago. Therefore there was a lot of enthusiam for the game way before it was released. This was combined with a slight dread that Bethesda might mes it up in some way, which would cause feelings of disappointment and anger amongst fans.

Bethesda gained a lot of positive publicity when they made an announcement that the DRM system for Fallout 3 would be a light touch. This would have boosted early sales of Fallout 3, of course. When it was revealed that Bethesda had used an implementation of the unpopular Securom DRM system it naturally generated feelings that gamers had been tricked, which in turn created an online expression of anger against Bethesda. This would reduce later sales of Fallout 3, of course.

How did the DRM for Fallout 3 actually work?

Securom is only used for the ‘launcher’ for the game, not the game itself.

When I instaledl Fallout 3 I am sad to report that it silently installed the unwanted Securom DRM system on my PC. This would have been done without my knowledge had I not previously researched the DRM beforehand. A sort of ‘drive-by installation’, if you will.

Whenever you start the game with the default shortcut icon Fallout 3 creates, it uses Securom to check that the master disc is in your drive. 

However, Bethesda kindly chose not to put a Securom disk check onto the Fallout3 game executable itself. This means that a customer can make their own shortcut icon to the Fallout3.exe file in the game’s installation folder. (On my machine it is C:\Program Files\Bethesda Softworks\Fallout 3\Fallout3.exe)

If you do this, you can play Fallout 3 without the disk being in the drive!

This could have been a benevolent treatment of DRM for customers. I feel that a simple disk check would have been ‘a light touch’ as promised by Bethesda, had they used a less invasive DRM system than Securom. Choosing to allow people to create their own shortcut was unexpectedly kind.

However, choosing a DRM system such as Securom, which intrudes so much into the configuration of your Windows on your PC and is so difficult to remove when you have finished with the game was heavy handed.

Talkjack concludes that Bethesda tried to do the right thing. They had obviosuly listened to their customers about DRM. Next time guys, either don’t use DRM at all, or stick with a genuine light touch disc check for installation only. After all, no DRM system used with games today truly stops pirates from downloading unpaid for, cracked copies of games.

Thank you Bethesda for listening, and not imposing Electronic Aggravation such as limited online activations upon customers. Please stick with a light touch DRM for future releases, only next time please, please choose a genuine light touch system for the disc check. Securom ain’t a light touch, IMHO.

(c) Copyright Talkjack 2009

>>>>>>>>>>>>Second Post below>>>>>>>>>

Fallout 3 to contain customer friendly DRM said Bethesda. Boo, shame on Bethesda, it seems they lied to us!

I had originally posted a favourable response to the announcement from Bethesda that they would only use a light touch DRM system with Fallout 3, and what have I just read? That they have imposed the invasive Securom program.

I feel gutted, because I pre-ordered the limited edition Fallout 3 based upon the public statement by Bethesda, and now I feel like I have been conned. My limited edition has not arrived yet, so for the minute I cannot determine the truth for myself, but everything I read online says that Bethesda misled their customers on this one. Damn it.

They certainly tricked me into pre-ordering a game. I have learned my lesson well and truly now. I dare not pre-order any PC games. I suggest you don’t either. So, is DRM killing PC games? Well it sure is taking the fun out of buying them!

On the plus side, Bethesda have not imposed the draconian measure of limited online activations via Securom. If they had, I would have returned Fallout 3 to Amazon unopened and unplayed. As it is I will play Fallout 3 when it arrives, but I will be worried what harm the DRM may have done to my PC. I will shortly be posting a long article on the problems I have suffered when Securom has previously been installed on my PC without my permission or knowledge.

I now feel that Bethesda used customer’s genuine concerns about DRM to promote initial pre-orders of the game, whilst witholding the valid information that they had chosen Securom as their DRM system. There are lighter DRM systems than Securom available, and Bethesda implied they would be using something more customer friendly. It just seems so dishonest.

Talkjack apologies whole heartedly if his initial post about Fallout 3 encouraged anyone to pre-order the game, and subsequently has been disappointed by the misleading statement from Bethesda. Once bitten, twice shy it would seem.

I have left my original positive response to Bethesda’s announcement below for those who want to read it. But shame on me for being fooled by Bethesda, and shame on them for their misleading statement.

… Talkjack

>>>>>>>>>>>>Original Post below>>>>>>>>>

Great news for gamers. Bethesda have demonstrated their respect for their customers by announcing that the DRM in Fallout 3 will be customer friendly. Whilst being vague on the DRM system in use, Bethesda said that Fallout 3 will use the same DRM system as Oblivion.

Given that the original release of Oblivion had a friendly DRM system, this is fantastic news for lovers of the Fallout series of games.  The only doubt in my mind is that the final expansion for Oblivion, Shivering Isles, installed Securom on gamer’s PCs without their knowledge (and causing some controversy in the process) however it sounds like Bethesda have learned from this.

The DRM for Fallout 3 will not require online activation. This is fantastic news, because I personally have installed, played through and completed the first two Fallout games several times on successive PC’s that I have owned. Any form on limited activations would have stopped me doing this. Given the way certain companies (which should be named and shamed more often) have been imposing draconian DRM on their customers, often covertly, I was wary of buying Fallout 3.

However, give the customer friendly stance announced by Bethesda, I have already pre-ordered the limited edition of Fallout 3 and am eagerly awaiting its arrival soon. This is the only game I have dared to pre-order in 2008. A sad reflection on DRM practices of other companies.

There will be some gamers annoyed that Oblivion required them to keep the original game disc in the drive while they played. To be honest, while I doubt the legality of this, most knowledgeable gamers seem to quietly download patches from websites like gamecopyworld and gameburnworld, which allow the customer to remove the disc from the drive after they have installed the game. From a moral stance, if no sale has been lost and no copies of the game made then this is not piracy.

Frankly, I prefer DRM to rely on the disc rather than online activation because I am in full control of the disc so care on my part ensures that I can still use the game for many years to come. In the case of online activation the customer has no control over the availability of activation servers in the future, so the customer has lost control of the product they paid for. I still hate games isntalling DRM onto my computer and changing the way Windows work though.

And , of course, with disc based DRM, or no DRM, there is no need for the customer to ‘plan their installations in advance’ as some people have been chastising customers for in forums recently when they ran out of activations for games like Mass Effect and Spore in a few months.

May I remind gamers in the UK that if a game cannot be played then it is not fit for purpose and therefore you should use your legal rights under the Sale of Goods Act to get your money back. If you have problems, speak to Trading Standards, and don’t forget to tell people how shops and suppliers treat you; it helps other customers to make informed buying decisions if they know which shops and online suppliers give honest customer service to honest customers.

The original release of Oblivion met Talkjack’s DRM charter and passed easily therefore I have high hopes that Fallout 3 will also pass with flying colours. Given the promise by Bethesda I therefore endorse Fallout 3 and encourage fellow gamers to buy a copy.

Thank you Bethesda for listening to your customers.

(c) Copyright Talkjack 2009

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